Historical Events  People
Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria did not take cocaine

Queen Victoria took cocaine

Are you amused now, your majesty?

We think of drugs, and the war on drugs, as a modern phenomenon, but these all have origin stories. When first created, there would have been no indication how things would ultimately play out in terms of side effects and the long term impact on society. In fact, it's not just drugs which were freely available before legisltaion - dangerous substances were too. It was possible to walk into a chemist in the 19th century and buy cocaine, opium and even arsenic.

Queen Victoria took cocaine in the form of chewing gum, with of all people a young Winston Churchill. Today this sounds ridiculous, but back then it's immediate physical effects would not have been seen as harmful.

Not mentioned in the history books

Queen Victoria wasn't alone in her use of cocaine when it comes to famous people of the time. In particular, Arthur Conan Doyle was an enthusiast, and there's a story that Robert Louis Stephenson wrote "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" during a 6-day coke binge.

When there was no information on their true nature available, the chemists of the day wouldn't have been able to tell if they would turn out to be a harmless medicine, or the fuel for the global crime epidemics of the 20th century.

Her favourite was said to be Laudanum - a tonic consisting of opium dissolved in alcohol.

And that's something for us all to chew over.